Room – film review by Calum Maclean


Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
Cast – Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers and William H. Macy
Running time – 118 minutes

The difficulty in recommending Room, which I absolutely do, is that part of the enjoyment comes from a sense of mystery.  In my opinion this is a film best enjoyed with as little knowledge of the plot going in, though even if you already know the outline there are still plenty of tonal and narrative shifts to savour, as well as two outstanding central performances.  Also, fans of the novel (which I’m now planning to read) can be assured that the film is faithful since the screenplay is adapted by the original author Emma Donoghue.   

     Essentially, Room tells the story of a young mother, her five year old son Jack and their isolated lives together in a single space.  Where they are and why is best discovered through the film, told primarily from the boy’s perspective, which keeps dark realities on the periphery but still confronts them when they become unavoidable.   

      As compelling as the plot is, at its core the film is about the relationship between mother and son.  As Ma, Brie Larson fully deserves the sweep of awards she enjoyed this year.  Her performance is brilliantly restrained when it has to be, emotionally raw when tensions escalate and yet always maintains a warmth and compassion that gives real believability to the character’s bond with her child.  As Jack, Jacob Tremblay gives one of the most naturalistic young portrayals in years.  His character drives the film, requiring the majority of screen time, which could have been wearing with a less capable performer, but is instead consistently emotionally engaging.   

     Fans of Lenny Abrahamson’s previous film, (the excellent Frank, based on Jon Ronson’s book), will recognise the skilful use of limited space in Room to create a sense of expanse from the child’s perspective, and the subtle alteration in the film’s rhythm and tone midway through.  That, combined with an understated score by Stephen Rennicks, creates an atmosphere of melancholy mixed with hope that slowly builds through the narrative to a satisfying end.   

      I can think of no higher recommendation than this; when I went to see Room I was already in a bad mood, which was in no way helped by the strangers sitting next to me taking selfies in the dark.  But when Room started, all the irritation went away, as did their phones.  We were all caught up in the drama, the performances and the deft handling of difficult subject matter to tell a truthful story.

     Unfortunately, Room is now only showing at selected screens, such as the Springfield Quay Odeon, but if you can’t catch it in the cinema, watch it on DVD when it’s released in May.

Calum Maclean – 5 March, 2016

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This section: Calum Maclean – poet and aspiring writer, Cinema, Film Reviews by Calum Maclean, What's On Glasgow West End: cinema, clubs, theatre, music, events, festivals, community and more

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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